The head of Real Madrid’s medical services says he expects Gareth Bale to be "120 percent" fit for Oct.’ 26’s ‘Clasico’ at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, as the winger can continue to play while his back problem receives treatment.
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Bale’s fitness remains a major talking point in Madrid, with Marca claiming over the weekend that the former Tottenham player has a serious back problem which would require surgery -- and that Blancos president Florentino Perez knew that but went ahead with his 100 million euro world record signing anyway.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu club issued a strongly-worded statement in response, saying that Bale, 24, "does not have a slipped disc" but does have "a small chronic disc bulge". The club claimed this was something relatively common with footballers, and does not stop them playing.
Carlos Diez, chief of Medical Services Sanitas-Real Madrid, told AS that the situation was not as serious as was being made out, and Bale could even play some minutes from the bench against Malaga in La Liga next Saturday and also feature when Juventus visit the Bernabeu in the Champions League the following Wednesday.
"There must be patience as he did not do a usual preseason," Diez said. "That makes a big difference. We are working so that he can play some minutes against Malaga, against Juventus a bit more and the objective is that he arrives at the Clasico at 120 percent."
Diez explained the official club position that surgery would not be required as the problem could be treated with a special training regime to strengthen the muscles around the affected area.
"Most high level footballers have similar 'protrusions', which are only a real concern when there is a further clinical problem," he added. "We are developing a programme of preventative recuperation, with the idea that he feels protected and can avoid it getting more serious. That consists in reinforcing the abdominal and lumbar muscles with preventative exercises. This muscular reinforcement works like a kind of girdle or corset on the [spinal] column, so there is no further suffering from the protrusions."
The doctor also denied the issue was similar to that which lead to former Gonzalo Higuain having an operation in November 2010 and spending four months on the sidelines.
"When there is a pinched nerve, and the spinal canal is displaced, you can get an inability to move," Diez said. "That is what happened with Higuain -- who could not run. That is not the case with Bale."
Even with these official denials, many in Madrid remain very concerned about Bale’s fitness - and question how much he will be able to contribute to the team over the coming months, and Dr. Avelino Parajon told Marca that Bale's signing may have been an error on the club's part, with the player suffering from an injury that may turn into a chronic problem.
The Wales captain has played just 132 minutes since joining the Bernabeu outfit just ahead of last summer’s transfer deadline, as both coach Carlo Ancelotti and president Florentino Perez have suggested the main issue is not a specific injury but that he himself is not happy with his own physical condition.
AS on Sunday catalogued 27 separate injuries which have seen Bale miss games since he joined Tottenham in summer 2007 aged 17.
In January 2011, Bale was substituted in a Premier League game against Newcastle, suffering from a back problem. Spurs then weighed up whether to operate or not -- but decided to rest him for five games instead.
Bale also pulled out of the Great Britain squad for the 2012 Olympics citing a back issue, and was then criticised by FIFA president Sepp Blatter when he played for Tottenham on a summer tour of the U.S.